Moving Into Christmas

Star and Tree LightsStores opened at ungodly hours today for “Black Friday” shopping but I wasn’t in any of the lines. My Christmas list is small and I’m not organized enough to really know what I want to give, other than knowing that no one is getting a flat screen TV from me. I do know that my plan is to limit my spending so electronics aren’t gonna happen.

The best presents are really those things that you know the other person will love because you know them well and have heard those little “I wish I had …” comments uttered at random, not when asked what they want. That’s a deadly thing to ask, really, since most minds go blank, mine included. But it’s hard to know what to get people who live far away when you don’t overhear those things in the course of your regular life.

So instead of shopping, I took the car to the dealer to deal with the dreaded “Service Engine Soon” light, picked up some groceries, then came home and dragged out all the boxes of Christmas things. Yes, I know it’s a whole month away, but I really love my tree and wanted to see how well things would work in the new house. Some of it ended up staying in the boxes because I just don’t have the right space or interest this year.

Of course, I also have a cat now. So far she hasn’t climbed the tree or shown any interest in doing so but she’s been batting around her little rattle ball around the base of the tree, hitting the lowest of the ornaments. They’re not breakable but there’s no point in tempting fate; I’m moving them before I go to bed.

Unpacking Christmas always opens the door to memories of people and places, especially ornaments collected from travels or that mark specific occasions or were gifts. Unwrapping each one in turn takes me down memory lane and brings a smile. No two are alike: there are handpainted santas and angels, wooden shapes made of olive wood from the Holy Land, a plastic Heidi doll from Switzerland, my grandmother’s stuffed heart pincushion, a little squirrel with a plumy tail, mirrored balls from Harrod’s, cross-stitched designs in frames, little pigs and cats galore.

My other cherished Christmas decorations are a 56-year old stuffed Santa made by my grandmother for my parents’ first holiday together and a Nativity scene brought from my college days in Spain over 30 years ago. The little shepherds have lost a few arms and the sheep don’t stand up well anymore, but I love remembering how I came to bring it home.

I love them all. But they are just things. If anything happens – if, God forbid, Tessie knocks them over and they all break – I’ll be sad and miss them but the memories are still there and new traditions will take their places. Now that they’re out, maybe I’ll be inspired to find the right presents for those on my list.